Friday, August 22, 2008

Copyright thievery by well known publications...

If you are a person and you take a picture or shoot a video clip, you are by default called an "artist and copyright holder" when it comes to copyright.

Believe it or not, you as an "artist" retain all rights to that picture you just took or the video you just filmed. There are few exceptions where this may not be the case. The only one I can think of is, if you were contracted for hire as a camera person and it clearly is defined that the ownership and copyright belongs the employer or production company that hired the artist.

Along come the video sites. You know, the YouTube's of the world. There are more and more of them everyday. It seems to be the "hot thing" for just about every news company, publication and magazine out there. They want you to submit your work for their benefit. And is some cases only for their benefit and definitely not yours.

If you actually read the "Terms of Use" at most of these sites, they pretty much state that you give them the right to show your wares without much issue. YouTube clearly states that they have the right to "stream" your wares using various methods and also disseminate your wares using various methods. But they do understand who owns the copyright - you. They merely ask for the right to stream in many places. This is great for you as your wares may show up on various websites, links and so forth. But when all is said and done, they are smart enough to never directly profit off of you or your wares in a blatant manner. What does this mean? As an example, you will not find YouTube (Google) taking one of your videos or photographs, modifying it, and selling it for profit.

However, there are some companies out there that believe they have that right. And believe it or not, you actually forcefully agree to it. And most likely you aren't even aware of it. One example comes to mind and is the reason that this is being written.

Fast forward to National Geographic. National Geographic started a new site area called "Everyday Explorers". It is basically a YouTube like place for you to show your wares that have to do with topics that National Geographic typically covers. They actually have it broken down into four (4) video categories; Favorite Places, Green Tips, Weather and Wildlife and Pets. Neat.

I figured, what the heck, NG is well known. So why not share my wares with their audience. Why not show some of my really neat lightning footage and photographs with a demographic that is well defined. And that is about where it ends.

I proceeded to upload a couple of vids that I also have on YouTube that have to do with some really neat lightning stuff. I uploaded these in mp4 format, just as their site claimed that was a recognized format. Nice small compact files. But the site rejected them and claimed they could not be processed. Hmmm. They worked on YouTube. They worked on Revver... But Vimeo also had the same problem. Maybe their converter software isn't the latest and greatest? Maybe my codecs are too new? In any case, it stopped me dead and gave me time to actually do a little more reading on their site. One thing stuck in my mind however the whole time. I recall getting an error when I first tried to submit. It was unrelated, but did get my attention. It made me check a check box that made me agree to their "Terms of Use". It asks this every time you upload.

I proceeded to click on the tiny little text link titled "Terms of Use" to see just what those terms state. Sometimes, there is a clearer explanation on how to upload, formats etc... within such terms. No such luck, no tech stuff. But something else caught my eye;

It was under Section II item number 5 on their terms:

II. Intellectual Property Issues

5. By uploading material, posting comments, or providing other content to the Site ("User Content"), you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional, and trade uses in connection with NG Products. An NG Product is defined as "a product of National Geographic, a corporate subsidiary, affiliate, joint venturer, or licensee of National Geographic, in any language, which is associated with a National Geographic trademark and over which National Geographic has "Editorial Control." For the purposes of this Agreement, "Editorial Control" means the right to review, consult regarding, formulate standards for, or to exercise a veto over the appearance, text, use, or promotion of the NG Product. You also agree that National Geographic may make User Content available to users of the Site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available.

Read this carefully! It is a blatant hijacking of your rights!

It is my belief and opinion that this is a blatant hijack of your copyright! I am not an attorney, but I can read. When someone writes "you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you," you basically give up all rights! This is blatant robbery, hijacking, theft or whatever you want to call it.

As of today, I have written to NG about this as well as warned some fellow artists that may or may not have been aware of this. I am most curious as to their response. Will they change their tune? Will they try to start a legal battle? Will they continue on their unscrupulous path? Once I get a response, I will let you know the outcome. Stay tuned.

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